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holidayBy Terri Mendoza and Louisa Paine

The holiday season is right around the corner. This can be a challenging time for people when it comes to keeping up with physical activity and eating healthy meals and snacks. Luckily, there are some things you can do to keep on track this holiday season. Here are some tips and tricks I like to use to keep myself healthy during the holidays!

If you’re hosting:

Prep matters. Avoid the skin of turkey and chicken to cut out the extra unhealthy saturated fat. Remove the fatty portions from red meat and pork, and broil meat rather than frying or grilling it.

Put it on the side. Help your guests stay on track by serving gravies and dressings on the side. This way they can add the amount they want.

Make healthy swaps. Any recipe can be made healthier with some clever swaps, so get creative! Try substituting half the all-purpose flour in recipes with whole wheat flour to boost the fiber content of baked goods.  You can often cut the sugar in recipes for cakes and cookies by one-quarter to one-half, although it may take a little experimenting to get the right amount of sweetness for your tastes.

Use small plates and serving spoons. A smaller plate means you can’t take as much food at a time, and smaller ladles and serving spoons will trick you into taking less.

Plan some fun. Organize activities that are not centered on food, such as playing board games or trivia. This will keep everyone’s mind off the food and keep them away from the kitchen!

Get outside. Staying active can be difficult on busy holidays, but if you plan a fun outdoor outing you will get some movement in! Go to the park, go ice skating, take a walk around the neighborhood, or go for a hike.

Don’t skip your healthy habits. It can be tempting to throw your healthy routines out the window when you have a party to plan. But you deserve to feel your best even during the holidays! Treat yourself right and take the time for your daily physical activity, healthy meals, and anything else that keeps you feeling vibrant and healthy. I always make sure to keep my healthy routine even on the day of a holiday celebration, such as eating a filling breakfast, doing something active, and staying hydrated.

If you’re a guest:

Don’t arrive hungry. Eating a snack before going to a holiday party will make you less likely to overdo it at the event. The same goes for holiday shopping—if you’re hungry when you get to the mall, you may be tempted by the food court or food stands. Eat a snack before shopping!

Skip appetizers. If you have the appetizers and a full entrée, chances are you will overeat. I like to wait for the meal to start eating, and avoid the appetizers altogether.

Drink water. Avoid the eggnog and bubbly and sip on water for a calorie-free and hydrating option.

Stay away from the food. Socializing away from the snacks and appetizers will make you less likely to eat mindlessly. Make sure you are not within arm’s reach so you aren’t constantly reaching for more food.

Go light on the toppings. Add smaller amounts of toppings and sauces to foods. Going lighter on gravy, dressings, and whipped cream will keep you from eating extra calories, salt, and unhealthy fats.

Be a picky eater. Don’t feel like you have to try everything at the buffet just because it is a special occasion. Be selective and only choose the foods you really love. Survey the selection before filling your plate to make sure you’re only getting your favorites. I always make sure to take what I really love, and leave behind the foods I’m not as excited about.

Load up on veggies. Fill half your plate with vegetables and eat those first. This will leave less room on the plate—and in your stomach—for the foods that are higher in calories and fat.

I hope these tips help you have a healthier holiday season. Happy Holidays!

Louisa Paine is a Dietetic Intern from Simmons College.

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